A pair of nerdy astronomers discover a comet the size of Mt. Everest and calculate that it will obliterate Earth in a little over six months. There may just be time to launch a mission to intercept and divert this planet-killer, but their impassioned pleas collide with image politics, a moronic US president, social-media distractions, corporate greed, and a general willful ignorance on the part of the public.
Sound familiar? The comet is of course standing in for climate change and the pandemic, probably because it’s more, well, cinematic.
This is a hard one to call. Few would disagree that we need more movies, even satires, aimed at humanity’s apparent inability to save itself from itself. Veteran comedic writer/director Adam McKay isn’t as funny as he thinks he is, especially since screwing up his creative partnership with Will Ferrell. Contrary to his probable crusading self-image, he has nothing to say, and his smugness infects this whole enterprise.
Maybe he thought the star-studded cast would make up for this. Jennifer Lawrence and Leo DiCaprio are the astronomers, along with Rob Morgan, the Trumpian president is Meryl Streep, her snarky chief of staff (and son) Jonah Hill. Cate Blanchett and Tyler Perry are happy-talk news anchors, and Mark Rylance represents Silicon Valley as “the third richest man who ever lived.” Geez, if they awarded an Oscar for Most Wasted Talent! McKay’s main direction seems to be “Overact!” And there’s two hours and 18 minutes of this. I laughed a few times, but mostly at sight gags and throw-away jokes.
McKay’s targets are pretty easy, and his bludgeoning approach blunts the film’s entertainment value. His comedy is broad and obvious, its driving concept little more than “what a bunch of idiots.” The result is that the film ends up trivializing the causes it pretends to support.
Bottom line is that absolutely no one is going to become a better ecological ancestor because of this overstuffed and toothless film, and I mourn for what, with these resources, could have been. Now streaming on NetFlix. (138 min)